So far, road has been friendly place for NBA teams

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One of the things I enjoy most about handicapping and betting sports is the intellectual challenge it presents on a game-by-game, day-by-day basis.

Part of the challenge is finding edges that go beyond the obvious and often take time to research. Sometimes the research proves worthwhile and I’ll find something that I can add as another factor to consider in the process. But sometimes the research comes up empty, either disproving my theory or, as is often the case, shows no significant edge.

Yet either way I learn something that in and of itself can be useful. That’s the “geek” in me.

I’ve long held that linesmaking, handicapping and betting are all part art and part science. The science is the development and use of statistics, power ratings and the like as data. The art comes in the application of factors that are not that easily quantified – situation, emotion, revenge and other factors that can best be classified as intangibles.

One such project was discussed last week — back-to-back games against the same opponent. The early-season results remain inconclusive that there are any significant tendencies. I’ll continue to monitor that theory and revisit it in another month or so.

Another theory I feel is worth investigating is how teams fare following what can best be described as an embarrassing one-sided loss. What defines such a loss? That number can be arbitrary and subject to manipulation to correlate with or support strong results.

But I’ve decided – prior to doing any research — to use a loss by more than 24 points as an embarrassing loss. My reasoning is that 24 points equates to being outscored by one point every two minutes or an average of six points per quarter.

Through Monday, there had been 22 such games. Two results were pending as of Tuesday. Through the first 20 “next games” the team that lost by more than 24 points was a modest 12-8 SU and 11-9 ATS. Again, no real sense of anything that can be considered a future handicapping tool. But there are other aspects of this research that are encouraging and I’ll focus on them next week.

Road teams have had tremendous early season success in cashing tickets, having gone 108-88-2 ATS through Monday. That rate of success won’t last and we should see some improvement in the ATS performance of home teams in the short term. Most of the road team success has been by underdogs (66-43-2 ATS). Home ‘dogs are slightly above .500 but a non-profitable 43-41 ATS.

In the past two full ‘normal’ seasons (i.e. not including 2019-20), home teams were favored nearly twice as many times as the road team. This season it’s been about 53% to 47%. The lack of fans in attendance appears to not just have an impact on road team’s point spread success but also on the linesmakers not making much, if any, of an adjustment for playing at home. Perhaps there may even be a home team disadvantage. Let’s see how the next few weeks play out.

Friday

Heat at Raptors: It’s been a slow start for Toronto, which started 2-8 but have won three straight through Monday. The backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet are playing well and perhaps the slow start was related to their nomad status of being based in Tampa for the foreseeable future rather than Toronto. It takes time to adjust to major changes.

Miami’s start is best described as inconsistent. The defending Eastern Conference champs have started 5-7 and through Monday had not won back-to-back games. The chemistry the Heat displayed in the Orlando bubble last summer has yet to reappear.

Toronto is healthy while Miami continues to deal with injuries and COVID-19 issues. Jimmy Butler’s dealing with the latter and may not yet be back.

This is the last of five straight home games for Toronto and the second of a back-to-back with the Heat. This homestand followed a five-game road trip and the Raptors let us down last week in their first game back, winning but failing to cover against Charlotte.

In the past I’ve usually suggested playing the loser of the first game in the quick rematch. But considering the current form of both teams and the early-season ‘insignificance” of playing back-to-back discussed last week, I’ll back the hosts regardless of what happened on Wednesday. RAPTORS

Saturday

Rockets at Mavericks: Houston finally rid itself of “the problem” by trading James Harden to Brooklyn last week, receiving in return a wealth of future draft choices at the expense of now playing with a weak and depleted roster.

At the same time, the Harden distraction has gone away and the Rockets can now fully focus on playing more competitive basketball with the roster they now have.

Dallas has also been a strong Under team thus far, standing 10-3 to the Under with one of the Overs needing overtime. The Mavs had played five straight Unders through Monday. UNDER

Sunday

Cavaliers at Celtics: Boston is playing well and had won five straight after starting 3-3. But that streak was snapped on Sunday with a shocking 105-75 home loss to New York. This will be Boston’s next home game following that loss after playing back-to-back in Philadelphia.

The Cavs gave their fans slight hope with their 3-0 start. But since then, Cleveland’s gone 3-7. Interestingly the points have not mattered in any of their first 13 games. The team has been beset by injuries and other issues, especially in the backcourt.

Boston’s Kemba Walker made his season debut in the blowout loss to the Knicks, scoring 9 points in 19 minutes of action. He’s on a minutes limit and should see increased action in this game.

There might actually be some line value here with Boston coming off those back-to-back games with the 76ers with whom they were tied for the Atlantic Division lead through Monday. Cleveland is also off a pair of tough back-to-back games in Brooklyn. CELTICS

Last week: 1-2

Season: 6-9

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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